Winter is coming to an end. As the MLB app on my phone reminds me, the first pre-season games are less than a month away*. It’s unclear from MLB’s website when we’ll get the first broadcast game, but history suggests it’ll be no later than February 23.
* Most of the earliest games–three of the four on February 21–are, as usual, pros versus colleges, but there is one game between two professional teams. Thanks to the Rangers and Royals for starting things off. I’m confident it won’t be a World Series preview and that most of the players won’t make the Opening Day rosters, but it’ll still be official baseball.
A reminder: there’s no World Baseball Classic this year, but there will be one next year, so we’ll get a chunk of press about the qualifying tournaments. Call it extra baseball.
There are still trades and free agent negotiations going on, but it’s not too late to get in on the annual weeping and wailing over your favorite team’s off-season. Any dedicated fan can find something to complain about–and we do.
But if that’s not your style, how about the Hall of Fame voting?
I’ll be honest here: I haven’t been paying that much attention. Last year was all about whether Edgar would make it in. Once he did, I started thinking about other things. Some of them even had nothing to do with baseball.
But I can’t let the voting go completely unremarked.
The big question leading up to the announcement of the results was whether Derek Jeter would be the second player to be elected unanimously.
Fortunately for my equilibrium, he wasn’t. Missed it by one vote. Thank you, anonymous BBWAA member.
To be clear, I consider Jeter absolutely worthy of the Hall of Fame. I felt the same way about Mariano Rivera last year. This is going to be an ongoing issue (though I don’t see any of next year’s candidates making a serious run at a unanimous election). Now that it’s happened once, it will happen again. But I won’t be reconciled to it until a non-Yankee pulls off the feat.
Curt Schilling added another ten percentage points to his total. If he can keep his mouth shut through the presidential elections, he’ll probably be elected next year.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens moved up slightly, but that’s probably more reflective of a smaller pool of voters than a sign of changing opinions. I doubt they’ll squeak over the bar in 2021 or 2022.
Sympathy votes? Of course there were! One each to Rauuuuuuuul, J.J. Putz, Brad Penny, and Adam Dunn. Two each for Cliff Lee and Eric Chavez. Paul Konerko, Jason Giambi, and Alfonso Soriano also collected a few votes. I don’t think those three qualify as sympathy votes–each of them can make at least vaguely legitimate cases for election.
Disappointingly, my prediction that Chone Figgins would totally rock the sympathy vote tally was only correct in the Charlie Brown sense. I think I’ll stop making predictions at the bottom end of the ballot.
Looking at the potential ballot for 2021, I don’t see any sure bets for election. As I noted above, I think Curt Schilling has a good chance. Omar Vizquel should continue to gain votes, but probably not enough to hit 75% that quickly. Manny Ramirez will probably also move up, but there’s no way he’s going to add more than forty percent of the voters in one year.
In some ways, this is the most difficult time- the month or so before Spring Training starts. I’ll have to decide whether I want to listen to the earliest, broadcasted games (pro: baseball; con: first hearing the commercials that are going to drive me mad by September), and I have to, finally, get used to the fact that the Giants team I’ll be following this year is going to be very different from- well, at least, the team I followed two years ago. Last year’s roster was so constantly in flux that, after awhile, I didn’t even bother to learn the new player’s names, since they were likely to be gone next week.
But, it’s gonna be hard, this year. Bumgarner has gone, to bring his special kind of whacky to another team, and the very last of the Old Guard- Posey, Belt, Crawford- is, probably, seeing its last year.
But, all seasonal kvetching aside, the Good News is that it’s baseball! For all they keep trying to screw it up, with robotic umpires and time clocks, it’s back, and I thank the baseball gods for another year. Play Ball….very soon.
It’s like the last little while before Christmas. The gifts are under the tree, but you have to wait until the magic day to open them. Doesn’t matter how much you want to see what kind of stuff that new shortstop’s got, you still have to wait.
As for the commercials: don’t worry, at least half of the ones during Spring Training will be the ones that drove you mad last season. It’s still Spring Training for the advertisers, too.
“Play Ball!” indeed.